William Ansah Sessarakoo was the son of John Corrente, the head chief of Annamaboe –in the central region of Ghana. Corrente originally named Eno Baise Kurentsi, sent Sessarakoo to England in an attempt for him to gain quality education and to build a partnership with the English to gain accurate information about the happenings in Europe.
Sessarakoo was sent aboard a ship and entrusted to the captain for transport. Instead, the ship’s captain sold Sessarakoo into slavery in Barbados.
Sessarakoo was born in 1736 in Annamaboe, Gold Coast, formerly the largest slave trading post during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Annamaboe, modern-day Anomabu, was an attractive prospect for European merchants due to easy accessibility to slaves and trading goods. The Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, French and English were all vying for the opportunity to utilize the precious resources available in Annamaboe.
Corrente sent Sessarakoo’s brother to France in the early part of the 1740s. His son returned with an extensive education and awareness of France. The English, threatened by the growing relationship between France and Corrente, offered to host Sessarakoo in England. Corrente naively thought sending Sessarakoo to England with the captain of a slave ship would secure his son’s future.
Captain David Bruce Crichton sold Sessarakoo into slavery in Bridgetown, The Bahamas in 1748. He was introduced as Prince William Ansah Sessarakoo or The Royal African.
Naturally, Sessarakoo fell out of contact with his family and the Fante people in his native land. Corrente was distressed and blamed the British for the capture of his son. Britain’s business prospects greatly suffered greatly because of the strained relationship between Corrente and the British.
A Fante businessman recognized Sessarakoo while in Barbados. The Fante merchant relayed the information to Corrente, who then demanded that Sessarakoo be sent to England at once.
Meanwhile, in England, Sessarakoo was under the protection of George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax; this afforded him advantaged status, even as a former slave.
Sessarakoo was given the chance to appear in London’s high society events. He was able to view Oroonoko, a play which highlighted the harsh enslavement and treatment of an African prince and his wife Imoinda. In the play, Oroonoko organizes a slave uprising after learning Imoinda is pregnant. He is then forced to kill the pregnant Imoinda and Oroonoko is executed afterwards.
In 1750, Sessarakoo returned to Annamaboe well-dressed and extremely knowledgeable of English culture. He became a writer at the Cape Coast Castle and ironically a slave trader.
In an interesting plot twist, Corrente and Sessarakoo worked together to deceive the French and British by allowing both entities to offer competitive trade bids. He also accepted extravagant gifts on behalf of the Fante people. Sessarakoo was able to carry out the plan because of the tight connections he made while living in London.
After a fight with the governor of Cape Coast Castle, William Mutner, Sessarakoo was banned from entering the premises and fell out of the good graces of the British.
Sessarakoo’s activities were mostly unknown after his sack. He remained in Annamaboe where he lived a private life and engaged in slave trading. He is estimated to have died circa 1770.
Sessarakoo recorded the events of his life in his memoir, The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe.
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